Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Tainted by 'Radical Feminism'? More like 'Living the Gospel'

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Tainted by 'Radical Feminism'? More like 'Living the Gospel'

Article excerpt

The BBC just called, an incident that in itself may well be a measure of the larger import of the situation. It's a strange moment in history: Everyone, it seems, wants to know what is happening to the nuns and what they can do next. "Next," of course, means what they can do now that the Vatican is back to questioning both their intelligence and their faith.

In fact, what self-respecting journalist could possibly skip the story? After thousands of years of life-giving service to the church at poverty level--building its schools, its orphanages, its hospitals, its missionary outposts, its soup kitchens, its homes for the indigent, its catechetical centers--the nuns are told the problem with their work is that it has been "tainted by radical feminism"? And by a group of men whose chance of knowing what the term "radical feminism" even means is obviously close to zero?

So what is going on?

Well, for one thing, what's going on is the same thing that's been going on for more than 1,500 years: Nuns everywhere are working with the people, hearing their stories, attempting to meet their needs, having a presence in their lives, simply intent on being the caring face of a merciful church. Not dogmatizers, not judges, only witnesses to the Gospel of unconditional love.

At another level, what is going on now is a mysterious work in progress. This so-called "evaluation" of the life of women religious and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious in the United States is a process begun long before this papacy and so, perhaps, difficult to stop midstream.

It may be difficult to halt the process for reasons of papal politics. Or perhaps it's difficult by reason of the amount of work already expended. Or maybe it's difficult to stop without resolution for fear of leaving festering sores likely to erupt again, by whim and fancy, without either cause or warning. In which case, the whole renewal of these efforts may well be benign, strengthened by increased understanding, and the first sign of a "These-are-my-beloved-daughters-in-whom-I-am-well-pleased" verdict the sisters have not heard since the Second Vatican Council.

On the other hand, the announcement has some very worrisome dimensions. Instead of planning to "complete the evaluation" or "continue the dialogue," the report says this new pope has reviewed and condoned the present "plan of reform.- So it seems the plan is for the church to set up a dummy receivership that leaves an organization of 57,000 women being run by three men. Case closed. Spiritual criminality determined. Hostile takeover complete. The membership disenfranchised. The body merely another extension of Rome. Its creativity suppressed; its blinders secured; its study of new issues and ideas monitored; its voice for the poor muted by the personal agendas of three men.

So why bother to have an avant-garde among the people lithe church does not really want to know the needs of the people to begin with? …

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